Session

Technical Session XII: Next Generation

SSC10-XII-6.pdf (238 kB)
Presentation Slides

Abstract

In this paper, the results of the first experimental tests on an RF (Radio Frequency) microthermal propulsion system are reported. A brief synopsis of existing propulsion systems for the 10-100 micronewton thrust regime suitable for microsatellites is presented, with cold gas thrusters the currently dominant option due to their reliability, low weight and volume requirements, and lack of complexity. RF microthermal thrusters are also low-requirement compared to most candidate propulsion subsystems, operate on well-understood theoretical principles, and in testing with argon have demonstrated specific impulses as high as 80-85 seconds with a suboptimal propellant and geometry, implying a higher ultimate performance is attainable. Performance is shown to depend linearly on power input, but that performance improves significantly at lower mass flow rates around 0.1 mg/s. Further, the frequency of the RF voltage applied across the coaxial electrodes has a large and nonlinear effect on performance. These trends will both be studied further in later research.

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Aug 12th, 12:00 PM

Experimental Characterization of a Radio Frequency Microthermal Thruster

In this paper, the results of the first experimental tests on an RF (Radio Frequency) microthermal propulsion system are reported. A brief synopsis of existing propulsion systems for the 10-100 micronewton thrust regime suitable for microsatellites is presented, with cold gas thrusters the currently dominant option due to their reliability, low weight and volume requirements, and lack of complexity. RF microthermal thrusters are also low-requirement compared to most candidate propulsion subsystems, operate on well-understood theoretical principles, and in testing with argon have demonstrated specific impulses as high as 80-85 seconds with a suboptimal propellant and geometry, implying a higher ultimate performance is attainable. Performance is shown to depend linearly on power input, but that performance improves significantly at lower mass flow rates around 0.1 mg/s. Further, the frequency of the RF voltage applied across the coaxial electrodes has a large and nonlinear effect on performance. These trends will both be studied further in later research.